I’ve been asked to sit on an upcoming panel at InsureTech Connect moderated by the Global Insurance Accelerator to discuss ways to ensure startups don’t mess up pilot opportunities with incumbent insurance companies. I’m looking forward to the incumbent perspective from co-panelists from Allstate and Principal Financial because, from the startup side, it can be a hard journey to navigate the pilot phase.

Executive Summary

Roland Chan, CEO of FindBob is scheduled to participate on a panel during an InsureTech Connect session titled “Your Pilot Is Doomed, and You Don’t Even Know It.” Here, he summarizes some ideas he’s been thinking about in advance of the session.

Also scheduled to participate on the panel moderated by Nicole Cook, managing director at Global Insurance Accelerator, are Louise Billmeyer, vice president, CIO U.S. Insurance Solutions, Principal Financial, and Peggy Klingel, Claims Innovation, Allstate.

Last week, as I was preparing for the panel, a founder of a local startup reached out to me about the same topic. He wanted to know if I had any tips for ensuring that his pilot would be successful. While I can’t guarantee results, anytime I have an opportunity to share my learnings with a fellow startup CEO/founder, I can’t resist—it’s the loneliest place to be on the planet as far as I’m concerned.

In my opinion, most startups aren’t doomed because their pilots aren’t successful. They’re doomed because they spin their wheels even getting to the pilot stage. Not only are we at a disadvantage being comparatively smaller in every possible way to the incumbent, but oftentimes the champions you’re selling to haven’t dealt with a startup before.

While I think our discussion may encompass some of these points, I wanted to share a few things I don’t regularly hear in discussions about pilots. So, without further ado, here are my three hacks to ensuring your pilot isn’t doomed for failure.

Don’t Make Weak Sauce

In the early days, our sales process would include some upfront needs analysis, a demo and follow-ups until we got to a proposal. I think the kids call this weak sauce. Nowadays, in addition to having refined our playbook to ensure we are connecting with the right champions, we focus on setting our prospects up for success by providing them with an engagement plan that details all the steps necessary in their review of FindBob.

Every organization is unique, so we tweak the plan accordingly. However, what is boilerplate is ensuring that we are able to communicate the financial benefits of partnering with FindBob. After the needs analysis, we go back to the lab and refine a robust business case that forecasts and maps benefits and cost projections. Most importantly, it will highlight key financial metrics like return on investment (ROI), internal rate of return (IRR), net present value (NPV) and payback period all benchmarked against FindBob’s performance with other existing enterprises.

What Is RevOps?

RevOps, or Revenue Operations, refers to a central function that consolidates previously siloed operations teams in sales, marketing and customer service departments.

More information on RevOps is available at https://learn.marsdd.com/article/getting-started-with-revenue-operations-revops/.

Remember, large companies have the luxury of directing resources on a wide variety of projects. Equipping them with key financial metrics from a business case will allow for a rational, dispassionate comparison of your pilot vs. other opportunities. The exercise itself will help you better communicate your value proposition and weed out those prospects who aren’t a good fit.

Know the Needs vs. Wants

As you’re building toward your pilot, you need to ensure that you’ve established clear metrics that the pilot will aim to achieve. In the case of FindBob, we assist enterprises to manage, engage, retain and acquire distribution talent. So, while we might want the organization to need our entire offering, they might only want our closed white-labeled marketplace to engage their distribution network first.

Luckily we’ll have identified this during the needs analysis and business case building stage of our engagement plan. Thus, the KPIs we’ll track during the pilot period might be purely marketplace metrics like GMV (gross merchandise value), buyer to seller ratios, MAU (monthly active users), number of quality connections, etc. Whatever your KPIs might be, be sure to center them around the needs of the enterprise to show that you are supporting their business goals.

It should go without saying that every project will be different, so be sure to communicate metrics regularly throughout the pilot phase so there’s transparency on progress and make certain there’s a process in place to adapt mid-pilot so you can course correct or adjust the metrics being tracked based on what is or isn’t working. After all, incumbents are working with you because of the agility built into your DNA. Lead with an iterative, proactive project style they know they can expect once you’ve graduated from the pilot period.

People Are the Key

Sure, we’ve all got killer products. Although we all know this “startup” label is temporary, the reality is that your product isn’t perfect. Things will invariably go off-course during the pilot, so prepare your stakeholders with a regular communication cadence and a risk mitigation process that includes communication when things go sideways.

Internal communication is extremely important here. If you’re practicing RevOps, you likely have a tightly coupled sales, marketing and customer success organization already. Even if you aren’t, it probably makes good sense to have some sort of sales-to-customer success handoff so your success team is intimately familiar with what is important to your customer.

Take a peek at our engagement plan here, and you’ll see that steps 10-12 are all about developing a relationship with the entire project team led by our account management and customer success team.

The best feedback during the course of a pilot that lets me know we’re on the right track is when I receive compliments about my team on the execution. We’ve got a great offering, but the last bit of runway to get off the ground and beyond the pilot stage has nothing to do with your technology. It has everything to do with the confidence your team has instilled.

What are your hacks to guarantee pilot success? I’d love to hear them and get your thoughts on the tips I shared here.

And if you’re going to be in Vegas next week, don’t forget to stop by the FindBob booth at InsureTech Connect and say hi.